Trout Country‘s “Legends Series” is a blog series on prominent people in the fly fishing community around the world. We want to celebrate the superstars in the industry and help connect the international community of fly fishing enthusiasts.
Our first legend is Englishman Stuart Foxall. Stuart has been fly tying and fly fishing for over 40 years and has fished in many of the U.K.’s rivers as well as in Norway, Argentina, Canada, and the USA.
Meet fly-fishing legend Stuart Foxall… known for his deep love of steelhead and his incredible fly tying skills. We had a chance to ask him about his fishy life.
How did you get into fishing? Does the passion run in the family?
Yes, fishing does run in my family. My mom’s family fished for coarse fish….float fishing and ledgering, etc. But my dad sort of fell into fishing when he met my mom, so I didn’t really have much say in the matter!
I started going out with dad when I was 3 or 4 but sort of bullied my dad into fly fishing when I saw some guys fly fishing when I was about 6. I’ve been lost waving a rod in rivers ever since.
My dad died relatively early but I still go fishing with my mom, in BC, Alaska and also when we are back home in the UK.
What is your go-to song you repeat in your head while waiting for a fish to bite?
I always do the Bert and Ernie: “Here fishy, fishy…”. It works!!!
Do you fish all year round? If not, what do you do in the off-season?
I do fish all year round. I am quite lucky here in the UK that we can fly fish for various species throughout the year with a bit of travelling.
We know conservation is a huge part of this sport… what has been your favourite conservation project you’ve been a part of?
Although I wasn’t directly involved, I did donate to a radio tagging program on a Scottish river called the River Deveron. They have a strong population of large wild brown trout…and the thought was they stop in one location to survive. The tracking program found that actually these big fish were migrating up and down the river system to make the most of food opportunities. This information blew a lot of old theories about brown trout out of the water.
We all know how steelhead crazy everyone is but… what is your favourite species to fish for on the saltwater or maybe on a river in another country?
Ok….steelhead are my favourite fish. Which is a bit of a bummer considering I’m the wrong side of the pond to fish for them.
I’d have to say that Atlantic Salmon is my next go-to species, as I travel many miles chasing them down around Europe. Having said that I’ve got a soft spot for Grayling as well.
Can you describe the feeling you get after you release a beautiful fish?
Admiration! To think that we are fishing for something that has evolved during thousands of years to perfectly fit into their own little river systems. To think that we can touch that power of evolution for just a few seconds before releasing the fish to spawn later in the year to expand the river’s gene pool is just awesome.
What is your favourite part about fishing?
That’s a really tough question as there’s lots about fishing that is great:
- The planning for a trip to the river usually involves tying a few flies or bugs.
- The wondering if the conditions will be favourable when you get there… that anticipation always makes the heart tick a little faster.
- The being out on the river watching the river’s wildlife go by, and feeling at peace with the pace of the river.
- Meeting like-minded folks and usually talking BS on the riverbank or pub afterwards.
- And getting lucky once in a while and actually getting that mind-jolting grab mid-swing.
I think all of it actually builds up to a really unique and pleasurable experience.
What do you do when you aren’t fishing… dreaming about fishing?
I’m actually quite a busy little bunny most of the time. After work (which consumes way too much time), I tie flies most evenings.
I also design flies for Aquaflies and help with tackle development with Loop Tackle Design of Sweden, as well as write articles for a few magazines.
Apart from that I try and keep my missus happy with bribes and nights out!!!
To think that we can touch the power of evolution for just a few seconds before releasing the fish to spawn later in the year to expand the river’s gene pool is just awesome.
Where is your favourite place you’ve ever fished?
That’s a real tough question as I’ve been fortunate enough to fish in some amazing destinations around the world.
The place I find my mind wandering to the most though is the Bulkley River in the fall. The fishing can be quite spectacular and there’s nothing better than seeing a steelhead charge your skated fly.
What’s your bucket list fishing destination?
I’m not greedy……all of those would do fine!
Do you tie your own flies? What’s your favourite?
Anyone that knows me will know I tie more than my fair share of fishing flies. Probably the one I wouldn’t be without is “The Steelie Pot Bellied Pig“.
It’s basically a pretty well known Atlantic salmon tube fly, but tied in Steelhead colours with a bright cone head.
It’s caught numerous steelhead, vast amounts of chum and coho salmon, chinook to well over 40lbs, opening day Atlantic salmon in Europe, and large Welsh sea trout……so you could say it’s a good all-rounder!
What’s your favourite fishing story your friends are sick of hearing about?
I could bore folks for hours with pretty meaningless stories I guess… unless you actually happened to be there!
One story that does stick in my mind though was an English guy called Stewart, who had booked the trip of a lifetime to Alaska to catch a large Chinook. He had hooked a few and the other guys in his group had landed large fish but it looked like he was going to the last guy to the dance floor. I tied him an intruder with lots of flash but hardly any bulky materials so he could cast it out a bit easier for his last day.
As his arm was hurting him, he used one of the lodge’s loaner single-handed rods and tossed the fly out. You’ve guessed it… first cast he was into his monster!
After playing the fish for some time, Stewart asked the guide (Jeb Hall) how often the lodge tackle gets checked for strength… as the words left his lips, the mighty Chinook took one last run and got well into the backing when the reel jammed and the backing snapped! Lots of expletives and cursing as they fished the next run !!!
An hour went by and Stewart asked Jeb if sometimes Chinook salmon return to their lie (as Atlantic salmon often do). To be fair to Jeb, he said they could take a look, and – lo and behold – there was the fly line in exactly the same run! Jeb quickly set up a rod with a jig of three single hooks and cast out, trying to retrieve the lost fly line.
Sure enough Jeb managed to hook the line and he felt a kick as he hand-lined it back in. He quickly bit off the hooks and re-tied the loose fly line onto the rod he was using and handed it to Stewart. Ten minutes later Stewart landed his 40lb-plus chrome Chinook buck, and his trip was made!
I will always admire Jeb for his tenacity and thinking outside of the box to make his clients’ dreams a reality!
You can follow Stuart on Instagram, Facebook, check out his articles on Deneki, check out his collection of flies at Senyo Fly Fishing, or learn to tie a few of them yourself on Loop Akademi’s Vimeo page.